Gwadar protesters end sit-in after govt 'accepts all demands'

Published December 16, 2021
Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo stands with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, the leader of the Gwadar protest movement, at the site of the sit-in. — Photo provided by author
Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo stands with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, the leader of the Gwadar protest movement, at the site of the sit-in. — Photo provided by author

After more than a month of staging protests for their basic rights, the residents of Gwadar on Thursday called off their sit-in after successful negotiations with the government.

Earlier today, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar had paid a visit to Gwadar on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan alongside Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority czar Khalid Mansoor.

Speaking to the media after attending a meeting chaired by Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo, Umar said that it was his understanding that the protests would finish "in a day or two".

However, provincial Minister for Planning and Development Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi announced on Twitter shortly after that negotiations with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman — the leader of the Gwadar protest movement — had been successful. Meanwhile, Rehman took to the stage at the site of the protest to call off the sit-in.

"Negotiations with Maulana Hidayatur Rehman, in the presence of the chief minister, have been successful. The government has accepted all the demands of Maulana sahib and the dharna is to be called off," Buledi said.

The Balochistan chief minister visited the site of the protest and informed them that their demands had been accepted. Addressing the protesters, Bizenjo said that a complete ban had been imposed on illegal fishing and directions had been issued to the departments concerned.

"These are all legitimate demands," he said. Providing the people of Gwadar with development projects and basic facilities is among our top priorities, he added.

Meanwhile, Rehman said he signed the agreement with Biznejo in front of the protesters and expressed the hope that it would be implemented.

"The struggle for the rights of the people of Gwadar and Balochistan will continue under the platform of the Haq Do Tehreek," he said on Twitter where he also shared a copy of the agreement between the two sides.

Officials told to expedite work

Earlier today, the federal ministers attended a meeting chaired by Bizenjo. According to Radio Pakistan, the meeting reviewed progress on development projects in Gwadar. The participants of the meeting also reviewed the establishment of Gwadar University, Gwadar Cadet College, Vocational Training Center, supply of clean drinking water and other issues, the report added.

In a tweet, Umar said that all development projects in Gwadar were reviewed during the "detailed" meeting with the chief minister and his team. "The people of Gwadar will see the impact of these projects in their daily lives," he said.

Speaking to the media alongside Jalal and Mansoor, Umar talked about the decisions taken during the meetings and asserted that the federal government was committed to providing the people of Gwadar with their due rights.

He said the government will send representatives from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to Gwadar so that the youth in the region can avail opportunities under the Kamyab Jawan programme.

Talking about education, he said that a university sub-campus in Gwadar had been elevated to a university and a vice chancellor had been appointed there, adding that officials had been told to expedite the construction work on the varsity.

"So health, education, electricity, employment: all these aspects were reviewed [during the meeting]," he said, reiterating that the premier believed that people from all corners of Pakistan had a right to the country's resources.

He said that a skills development centre had also been constructed for the youth in collaboration with China, adding that decisions had been taken during today's meeting to make it operational.

The minister said that every year money is always allocated under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) but it is never spent. He said that earlier the most that was spent on development in Balochistan was Rs24 billion, but during the past one year Rs59 billion was spent on ground.

"We will continue to work with the provincial government to improve the lives of the people of Balochistan, specifically those living in Gwadar," he said.

Talking about the protest, he said that the Balochistan government was dealing with the situation successfully, adding that some of the demands made by the protesters had already been fulfilled.

He said that the government was fulfilling its promises in an effort to facilitate the people, not just to end the protest.

Gwadar protest

The protest, which began more than a month ago, saw tens of thousands of people, including women and children as well as fishermen, march on the main roads and streets of Gwadar in support of their movement.

Their demands ranged from the presence of large fishing trawlers encroaching on their livelihood to lack of health facilities and drinking water.

On Sunday, PM Imran took notice of the "very legitimate demands" of the "fishermen of Gwadar" as the protest in the port city for basic rights entered its 28th day.

The premier had said that the authorities would take "strong action against illegal fishing by trawlers", adding that he would also speak to the provincial chief executive on the matter.

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